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"Why is it we have the ugliest money of all civilized nations?"

 
 
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Pillar of the Community
United States
1354 Posts
 Posted 03/13/2018  12:12 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add jpsned to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Dissatisfaction over coin designs is nothing new. The following quote reflects opinions many of us have expressed here over the years about our current designs. The rub is that comes from an American magazine, The Galaxy, in 1876! It talks about the Liberty Seated design prevalent in that year.

"Why is it we have the ugliest money of all civilized nations? The design is poor, commonplace, tasteless, characterless, and the execution is like thereunto. They have rather the appearance of tokens or mean medals. One reason for this is that the design is so inartistic, and so insignificant. That young woman sitting on nothing in particular, wearing nothing to speak of, looking over her shoulder at nothing imaginable, and bearing in her left hand something that looks like a broomstick with a woolen nightcap on it—what is she doing there?"

Pillar of the Community
United States
1362 Posts
 Posted 03/13/2018  1:11 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Tootallious to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very interesting topic and one that I would also like to hear everyone's thoughts and or opinions on!

My goal in life is to live forever, so far so good!

If you don't want to regret your past, don't screw up in the future because the future, inevitably, becomes the past!
Bedrock of the Community
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United States
15719 Posts
 Posted 03/13/2018  2:00 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add moxking to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Even if every execution were perfection personified there is still that population believing the fig leaf is a trifle small.
Bedrock of the Community
United States
17030 Posts
 Posted 03/13/2018  5:09 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add just carl to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Our coins are not necessarily ugly, just very, very boring. And when the Mint does make something different, like those Quarters, they put them on the reverse. I'm still waiting for them to do with coins like they did with stamps. Imagine a Dime with Elvis or someone like that on the coin.
just carl
Pillar of the Community
United States
987 Posts
 Posted 03/13/2018  5:27 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add paxbrit to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
There are a lot of people on the planet who are not happy unless they have something to complain about.

Journalists, especially, make a living by whining and grousing about something, and no national coinage or currency has ever been designed by a whining journalist.

If you think our coins should be more like postage stamps, just consider that the modern practice of putting Elvis and puppies on stamps just about killed the hobby, and will do exactly the same for coins.
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United States
61511 Posts
 Posted 03/13/2018  6:12 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
There are a lot of people on the planet who are not happy unless they have something to complain about.
This. They exist in every generation.
Pillar of the Community
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United States
1163 Posts
 Posted 03/13/2018  7:53 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Alpha2814 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Part of me thinks that the guy who wrote that article had seen only well-worn Seated coinage. High grade pieces, especially larger issues, can be quite beautiful. But the smaller pieces that circulated a great deal, not so much. Plus, all of the silver coins for decades before that article (and for a good while afterwards) had the same obverse design. I can see his point, but yeah, always something to complain about.

Fifty years later, I doubt the same article would be written -- all of the designs by that time (except the Lincoln cent, IMO) are beautiful in their own way. Not too long after that though, and the circulating designs are dull and uninspired again, but at least they're all different. Now there I go having something to complain about.
Working on: Peace dollars (two to go), US type (Bust era), Chinese pandas, and San Francisco tokens.

"Fear is the enemy of will. Will is what makes you take action; fear is what stops you, and makes you weak."
-- Sinestro to (my avatar) Hal Jordan, "Green Lantern" (2011)
Pillar of the Community
United States
1354 Posts
 Posted 03/13/2018  10:20 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jpsned to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Well, I've never heard anyone complain about the Buffalo nickel, Mercury dime, the SLQ or the WLH. In fact, they are praised to the hilt in terms of their beauty. Seems like in the early-to-mid 20th century, we were doing all right in terms of coin design satisfaction.
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United States
2321 Posts
 Posted 03/14/2018  08:23 am  Show Profile   Check chafemasterj's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add chafemasterj to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Being a new world coin collector I must say that there's coinage out there that is much less inspiring than anything the United States has ever minted. The assortment of Euros comes to mind as do others that are so uninspiring that they slip my mind at the moment.
http://goccf.com/t/303774
Check out my counterstamped Lincoln Cent collection:
http://goccf.com/t/303507
Pillar of the Community
United States
655 Posts
 Posted 03/14/2018  10:59 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add ron6788 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
That's a funny-sounding editorial for the period. Do you have a link to the text, jpsned? I don't see the point about the coinage being ugly but it is true that it seems a little odd in ways, such as the nightgown Ms. Liberty appears to be wearing and the nightcap on a broomstick.

As for today's money, I think its main focus should remain on being august, dignified and respectable. This includes our paper money. Don't forget there's no intrinsic value to this stuff since we went off the gold/silver standard. So, the only thing that makes this stuff any more valuable than scrap metal is people's faith in it (and in the country).
Pillar of the Community
United States
1594 Posts
 Posted 03/14/2018  11:09 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nfine to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I've never heard anyone complain about the Buffalo nickel, Mercury dime, the SLQ or the WLH.


Try introducing any of those designs for circulating coins today if you want to hear complaints. Everyone of those would be offensive to one group or another.

Rather than risking objectifying, demeaning or insulting a group our 'leaders' give us bland and boring.
Remember, what the Dormouse said.
Bedrock of the Community
United States
14479 Posts
 Posted 03/14/2018  4:50 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Conder101 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
In general no coinage design has been considered attractive while it is in active circulation. I think it falls under "familiarity breeds contempt".
Gary Schmidt
Bedrock of the Community
United States
17030 Posts
 Posted 03/16/2018  1:58 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add just carl to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Oddly enough our Mint doesn't try for beauty on coins or currency. Not their job. Yes to some small degree they do with those quarters, yet no attempt for something to hang on a wall for most coins. The intent is to have something to spend, not admire. If you weren't a coin collector, you probably wouldn't even know what is on most coins.
just carl
Bedrock of the Community
United States
14479 Posts
 Posted 03/16/2018  5:17 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Conder101 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Oddly enough our Mint doesn't try for beauty on coins or currency. Not their job.

if you go back to the 19th century you will find plenty of documents between the of the mint officials discussing design that changes in the designs in the attempt to make the coins more beautiful and attractive. Usually because they make the comment that the current coinage for some of the worst in the world. So they were trying to achieve beauty in the coinage. They don't today because for the most part our coins haven't changed for 60 or 70 years or more. Any changes done now are simply done to make the physical act of production easier.
Gary Schmidt
Pillar of the Community
United States
1302 Posts
 Posted 03/16/2018  5:26 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add kbbpll to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I think the only comment I've ever gotten on this topic from people of other countries is that our money looks so "serious" (and I've gotten that comment many times).
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Australia
12918 Posts
 Posted 03/17/2018  01:10 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
In general no coinage design has been considered attractive while it is in active circulation. I think it falls under "familiarity breeds contempt".



Complaining about the state of the coinage is not new, and was not new even in 1876. Here's a quote to ponder:

Quote:
The course our city runs is the same towards men and money.
She has true and worthy sons.
She has fine new gold and ancient silver,
Coins untouched with alloys, gold or silver,
Each well minted, tested each and ringing clear.
Yet we never use them!
Others pass from hand to hand,
Sorry brass just struck last week and branded with a wretched brand.
So with men we know for upright, blameless lives and noble names,
These we spurn for men of brass...
Aristophanes, from the comedy "The Frogs", first performed in 405 BC


Personally, while "classical" 19th century American coinage has it's design flaws, modern American money is less attractive than the stuff the author was complaining about. It's just too wordy. The name of the country written out in full, the denomination written out in full, plus not one but three mottoes. That's a lot of verbiage to cram onto a tiny little coin, leaving very little space for actual artwork.
Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise, you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. - C. S. Lewis
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